My rating: 4 of 5 stars
OK, this is the “official autobiography” of INXS, so it’s somewhat filtered, I’m assuming. That said, it’s pretty well researched and fairly well written, although the author is an obvious fan boy and makes INXS out to be pretty much the greatest band of all time, which annoyed the hell out of me.
It was enjoyable to read about the band’s beginnings in Australia, when they were high and middle school students. How they played the pub scene for years, all around the country, sometimes three shows a night. They certainly paid their dues. Their manager was an apparent asshole, but a visionary and he had a plan to turn these boys into successes, something he ultimately did.
I first heard INXS circa 1981 when I somehow got my hands on an import LP with a post-punk song called “We Are The Vegetables” on it. I loved it and have been following the band ever since, enjoying Shabooh Shabbah and The Swing to Listen Like Thieves and Kick. I sort of lost interest as the ’90s rolled around and they released X, which did fairly well, but it was their last really decent selling album.
It was interesting to read about the international tours they went on. They played America, opening for Adam Ant and blowing him off the stage. Eventually he would have nothing to do with them. They opened for the Go-Gos, and in Europe, for Queen, which I think would have been cool. They also headlined at clubs to build a greater following. Of course they had MTV to thank for introducing Americans to the band, with the channel’s heavy rotation of their music videos.
I learned something I didn’t know about the band. They were as into hardcore partying nearly as much as Zeppelin! I mean sex, drugs, rock and roll. Trashed hotel rooms, groupies, coke and booze. I had no idea. Some of the band members were married or had girlfriends, but the others took advantage of the opportunities such touring afforded them.
Listen Like Thieves was really their first American hit album. I still listen to it a lot. But they hit it really big with Kick, which was nominated for a Grammy. I was in college at the time, circa ’88 I think, and I remember camping out for concert tickets in Knoxville with some friends and going to the show. It was great; I really enjoyed it. High energy. We all had a blast.
That was the pinnacle for INXS. At the time, they were probably as big as U2 and REM, ie, the biggest bands in the world. Everything seemed great for them. However, they had been touring for so many years that they just got tired out and took some time off before regrouping to record X. Also, something happened to them in Australia that was rather odd. They had always been local boys made good in the press, but now that they had gotten so big internationally, they were trashed in the press, as though they were too good for the locals, which wasn’t the case at all. However, their reputation in Australia never really recovered, which is a shame.
I didn’t know that Michael Hutchence was such good friends with U2’s Bono. They spent a lot of time together and probably influenced each other a great deal. I also didn’t know that the members of the band lived in England, France, and Hong Kong, as well as Australia. The distance eventually drove a wedge between the band members. Pity.
Everyone probably remembers the occasion of Michael Hutchence’s death. I was horrified and felt really badly for his family and the band, just for the way in which it was portrayed. The author doesn’t really tell us whether Michael Hutchence’s death was a suicide or an autoerotic accident, but he does indicate that the rest of the band members remain unsure, themselves, of what exactly happened to Michael. The band members really have differing opinions of what happened. One thing that could have led to a suicide was an accident he had in Denmark, when a taxi cab driver beat him so severely that he was in the hospital for two weeks and permanently lost his sense of smell. He also got a brain injury that caused him to become angry and violent. He would lash out at people for no reason. It wasn’t entirely his fault. It’s just a shame that it happened like that. Toward the end, he had hooked up with Bob Geldoff’s ex-wife and they had had a daughter. You would think this would have stabilized his partying, but he was hooked on heroin by then, as well as other substances, and was in a deep depression. That said, the last day of his life, he seemed to be in a good mood as the band prepared to record a new album. He died at 10 AM the next morning in a hotel room.
The writing in the book is straightforward and probably honest, but it’s certainly not challenging. Rather like reading People magazine. One thing that irritated me about the author, as I’ve already noted, is his willingness to fawn over INXS like they were the greatest band ever. Listen to this:
“…in 1988, it [Kick] spurred every major label to seek out and sign some kind of slinky, sexy, romantic, rock and rhythm-and-blues band. They found them all all right, crap or not, from the Fine Young Cannibals to General Public to Faith No More to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the Fixx. INXS put punk, funk, soul, and rock together better than those bands could ever hope to, for one simple reason; INXS could and still can play them into oblivion.”
Wow. Seriously? OK, I can agree on Fine Young Cannibals and Faith No More, both good for one or two albums, and who cares about General Public? But The Fixx put out some good albums, and they’re still producing music, putting out a decent album which I bought just last year. And most importantly, the Red Hots? Seriously? I’ve read about the Red Hots and I really doubt if INXS was an influence on them. Shabooh Shabbah was released in 1982, one year before the Red Hots formed. And the Reds had it from the beginning. If anyone was influencing anyone else, it was the Red Hots. THEY had punk, funk, soul, and rock down much better than INXS did or more any other group, for that matter. Also, let’s talk stats. INXS sold 35 million albums and never won a Grammy. The Red Hots have sold 80 million albums and have won 7 Grammy Awards. ‘Nuff said. Don’t go overboard in your idealizations, Mister Bozza. It’s stupid and unfounded.
Aside from my annoyance with the author’s constant praise of the boys in the band, it wasn’t a bad book to read, and as a fan, I enjoyed learning some things I hadn’t formerly known about the band. If you like INXS or just dig ’80s music at all, you might like reading this book. Cautiously recommended.